Alas, Robin Williams: What Dreams…

12 Aug

My favorite Williams’ performance is in 1984’s Moscow on the Hudson, the late director Paul Mazursky’s slice of life about a Russian circus musician who decides in the midst of New York’s landmark Bloomngdale’s department store to defect to the U.S. . The performance was, for Williams, relatively restrained, showing a lot of heart and sustaining a plausible Russian accent. He earned a Golden Globe nod, but it wasn’t the right vehicle to catch the Academy’s attention, not in an extremely competitive year that included such also-rans as Victor Banerjee (A Passage in India), Harry Dean Stanton (Paris, Texas), Robert Redford (The Natural), and Steve Martin (All of Me).

Oh dear. Robin Williams has died at the age of 63, an “apparent suicide.”  I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that Williams’ talent and his impact on pop-culture are almost too big to be addressed in a mere blog piece. Funny, for all we know about Williams there is still much more that we don’t know, his incredibly manic and giving public persona serving as defense to mask or keep at bay a tumble of secrets and insecurities. Yes, we know that he dealt with addiction, but the full-scope of what troubled him remains much a mystery.

What we know is that he was born into an affluent family–mom a former model, dad a high ranking Ford executive–educated at Julliard (where he roomed with Christopher Reeve), made his first major public splash as the alien Mork from Ork in the smash 1978 sitcom Mork and Mindy, becoming a household name in the process.  From there, he transitioned to big screen stardom in 1980 with Robert Altman’s live action, quasi-musical version of the old Popeye cartoon. He quickly followed with the big screen adaptation of John Irving’s The World According to Garp though he did not garner attention equal to that of his Oscar nominated co-stars, Glenn Close and John Lithgow. His big screen career was filled with amazing highs, including such monster box office hits as Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and Patch Adams (1998), along with a host of accolades among them: four Oscar nominations, three for Best Actor and, finally, a win in the Best Supporting Actor category for 1997’s Good Will Hunting.

Williams also deserves to be remembered for his humanitarian efforts, which included co-hosting, with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldeberg,  a series of Comic Relief USA fundraisers to help alleviate the struggles of the homeless.

His Best Actor Oscar nominations are as follows:

^ 1. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)


^ 2. Dead Poets Society (1989)


L- R: Williams, Mercedes Ruehl (Best Supporting Actress winner), Jeff Bridges, and Amanda Plummer

^ 3. The Fisher King (1991)

Good Will

^ Finally,  Williams’s Oscar victory came with his supporting turn as a therapist opposite Matt Damon (r) in Good Will Hunting (1997)


I will be updating this piece throughout the day as time permits.


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